Early Ferry to Lismore

We caught the early foot-ferry to Lismore, in beautiful weather on the last day of May. If you want a peaceful day off from the world I commend this lovely Scottish island to you, unspoiled and with some of the best views in Scotland.

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The Lismore Ferry (c) John Bainbridge 2017

After very heavy rain the day before, we were apprehensive that the weather would be rough, and we had come to Appin particularly to visit the nearby island of Lismore. But like a miracle, it cleared into one of those quite perfect Scottish walking days, with absolutely clear views for miles.

Even before we left on the ferry from Port Appin, I’d spotted an otter through a pair of binoculars borrowed off a waiting bird watcher.

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Lismore’s Past (c) John Bainbridge 2017

The ferry takes just a few minutes to take you across the Lynn of Morn to The Point on Lismore. The sea was as calm as glass.

The views from Lismore were quite superb. We’d often seen the island from our many trips across the CalMac ferry to Mull. I’d imagined it a flat and barren. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Lismore has quite a variety of landscapes, and is much more wooded than I’d thought.

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Medieval Grave Slabs (c) John Bainbridge 2017

We followed the very quiet lane to Clachan, where stands the island’s lovely church. There was once a cathedral here in the early days of Scottish Christianity. The present church is calm and peaceful, with some excellent stained glass – outside there is a display of fascinating medieval grave slabs, and a sanctuary stone opposite, marking the boundary of the distance you might wander if you’d claimed the protection of the church.

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On the coast of Lismore (c) John Bainbridge 2017

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The Broch and the mainland mountains (c) John Bainbridge 2017

On the way down the lane we watched a farmer pull in at a gate. He had several bottles of warm milk with him. He stood by the gate and began to call out, doing an incredibly good impression of a ewe. Surely, after a few moments two lambs, either abandoned or orphaned, trotted up to him.

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A Medieval Sword (c) John Bainbridge 2017

We ambled on up the lane to the heritage centre and cafe run by the local community – and excellent it was. I recommend the locally-made ice cream. There’s a splendid little museum too, illustrating the life of the island. Well worth a visit.

The friendly lady there told us that it seldom snows on Lismore, though they get a lot of rain and high winds. She added that the mountains on Mull and the surrounding mainland look magnificent from this island viewpoint.

The island is thriving, she said. Young people who had left were now returning. There were currently three new babies on the island.

We followed a lane down to the long island loch called Baile a’ Ghobhain – a rather beautiful stretch of water, reedy at this end. Just before the farm of Balnagown, we took of across country, scrambling across walls and through fences, to Trefour Castle. Not a castle as such but a broch.

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Baile a Gobhain (c) John Bainbridge 2017

The fallen walls of the broch are about fourteen feet high and it must have been an intimidating structure during its Pictish heyday. It seems to have been used for several centuries, possibly even by the Vikings whose long ships were once a familiar sight in these waters.

We followed another lane back up to the island’s main road – oh, that all main roads were so quiet and peaceful, heading off to see Port Ramsey, a long row of cottages by the sea, built originally for workers in the limestone quarries. Apparently, some of the islanders still commute by boat to work at the quarry on nearby Morven.

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The Broch (c) John Bainbridge 2017

Back then along the lane to The Point and our homeward ferry, admiring once more the many flowers common on Lismore – primroses, rhododendrons, flag irises, and so many more. During the day we also saw a shrew and a hare – the latter were reintroduced to the island some thirty years ago.

Lismore is a very peaceful and spiritual island – it nearly became the religious centre of the area instead of Iona. A wonderful place to relax and potter around.

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Port Ramsey (c) John Bainbridge 2017

 

“Villain” is Now Out

Back to walks later this week, when I’m blogging about the stunning island of Lismore, off the Scottish Coast.

Meanwhile…

As some of you know, when I’m not walking, I write novels as well as non-fiction on the outdoors. My latest is now out:

My new book Villain – the third in The Chronicles of Robin Hood series – is now available for pre-order on Kindle. Publication date is 30th June. The paperback is already available. Order before the publication date and you get either version discounted – the price goes up on the 30th.Villain Cover

Well, here’s what it’s about:

“AD 1203. Plantagenet England. A gripping historical novel and the third instalment of The Chronicles of Robin Hood. Robin of Loxley is in exile in the dark forests of the north, when a killing and a betrayal drive him back to his old battleground of Sherwood Forest.

A good man is slain and the full terror of the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy of Gisborne is unleashed. With the King in Normandy and a people’s champion dead, only warriors outside the law are there to fight for the poor and desperate.

Outnumbered and surrounded by his enemies, Robin Hood is forced into waging a murderous campaign against the forces of evil.

Fighting against overwhelming odds, the outlaws divided and with a vicious warlord attacking the people of Sherwood, can Robin Hood and just a few of his men hold back the forces of oppression?

An exciting new historical novel by the author of Loxley and Wolfshead.”

To order just click on the link to pre-order the Kindle version. Look under “Books” for the paperback.

Please do share and tell your friends. Small publishers taking on the mighty publishing empire of Rupert Murdoch need word of mouth advertising.

Just click on this link for more information or to order:

 

Writing Wayfarer’s Dole

Of all my books “Wayfarer’s Dole” has probably had the longest period of writing. I began it over six years ago and originally the text included most of what subsequently appeared in my other book “The Compleat Trespasser”.Wayfarers_Dole_Cover_for_Ko

It was then put to one side while I concentrated on the Trespasser and the novels. So the last period of writing was more or less a revision and updating.

“Wayfarer’s Dole” covers a great deal of territory from early rambles.

I didn’t just want the book to be an account of rambles, despite what it says on the sub-title. I wanted to write a book that celebrated not only our greatest landscapes – and these are now under threat as never before thanks to our callous and profiteering politicians – but how the footpaths and trackways we walk upon actually evolved.

I wanted to write a book that was about why we walk as much as where we go.

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If my other book “The Compleat Trespasser” was a celebration of all the places you are not supposed to walk, then Wayfarer’s Dole is a love letter to all of the wild moorlands, mountains, downlands and country paths where you can.

It’s about the whole ethos of country walking. And from my own very personal viewpoint. So there’s something about how an individual becomes a walker, a bit of controversy, and a look at why and how ramblers relate to wild places.

A lot of places too…

From Dartmoor to the South Downs, Glastonbury to the Pennines, Dorset footpaths to the Lakeland Fells, the Black Country to the Scottish Highlands.

Oh, and a few snippets on the vagabond life as well – chapters on maps, roadside fires, the need to protect our ancient trackways – and why we’re all better off mentally and spiritually if we explore the British countryside on foot.

So please do partake of the Wayfarer’s Dole…

It’s now out in paperback and on Kindle eBook. Just click on the links below.

And what is Wayfarer’s Dole?

Here’s the explanation from the official publisher’s blurb for the book…

“In a series of solitary journeys on foot the writer and novelist John Bainbridge explores the ethos of rambling and hiking in rural England and Scotland.

On his journey he seeks out the remaining wild places and ancient trackways, meeting vagabonds and outdoors folk along the way, and follows in the footsteps of writers, poets and early travellers.

This is a book for everyone who loves the British countryside and walking its long-established footpaths and bridleways.

And for the armchair traveller…

Wayfarer’s Dole takes its title from an ancient tradition – In medieval times pilgrims travelling the road through Winchester to Canterbury would halt at the St Cross Hospital, a place of rest and refuge for those on holy journeys, and demand the Wayfarer’s Dole – small portions of ale and bread to ease the hunger and thirst incurred on their travels.”

Here’s the link for the paperback…

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wayfarers-Dole-Rambles-British-Countryside/dp/1519736401/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450081402&sr=1-1&keywords=wayfarer%27s+dole

And here’s the link for the Kindle version…

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Wayfarers-Dole-Rambles-British-Countryside-ebook/dp/B019B4Y4HU/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1450080183&sr=1-1&keywords=wayfarer%27s+dole

George Borrow and the Appleby Gypsy Horse Fair

Mostly a wet weekend in Appleby in Westmorland as the Gypsies came for the annual horse fair, though spirits were definitely not dampened.

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Vardos (c) John Bainbridge 2017

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Bow Wagons on Fair Hill (c) John Bainbridge 2017

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On the Flash (c) John Bainbridge 2017

The horses were still washed in the River Eden, as they have been for decades. And the mounts were then shown off “on the flash” – the Flashing Lane, that is, on other occasions the public highway to Long Marton and Dufton.

Take away the motor cars and this is a little bit of old England come to life, not so different from the writings of George Borrow, the most neglected great writer of the nineteenth century.

As you walk among the horse-dealers, you see scenes that would have been familiar to Borrow, and characters that could have come straight from his pages – though the Romanies of his day would have mostly had tents rather than vardos (travelling wagons). Borrow refers to an early appearance by a travelling wagon in his book Wild Wales, following his walk there in 1854.

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Washing in the River Eden (c) John Bainbridge 2017

It was pleasing to hear the odd word of Romanes still being used. I used to know a bit years ago, though my memory seems to have disposed of much of it.

It amazes me that George Borrow is so neglected. I’ve been a fan since I was a teenager, but then I had rather a vagabond youth myself. If you haven’t read his books start with Lavengro and The Romany Rye, and lose yourself in a world of coaching inns, Gypsies and the open road, a struggling writer penning books in Regency London and so much more.

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A Fair Scene (c) John Bainbridge 2017

And lots about walking through our countryside.

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If you want to know more about George Borrow, I’ve written a little e-Book as an introduction on Kobo and Kindle, and devoted a whole chapter in my walking autobiography Wayfarer’s Dole.

Let’s give George Borrow the recognition he deserves!

Walking in Silence

I think it was Bertrand Russell who said that nobody could have any idea about how quiet the countryside could be unless they had lived and walked before the Great War.

No walk, of course, is undertaken in silence. There are always the sounds of the countryside around, the wind soughing through the trees and the birds singing. I like to hear the sound of church bells ringing in the distance, knowing it is a sound that our ancestors would have heard as they looked across the same scene.

But the intrusive sounds of the 21st century are a pest, whether they be the distant rumble of traffic or the buzz of aircraft overhead.

I loved that Icelandic volcano a few years ago! A few magical days of country walking without any aeroplanes overhead. I think it was the country poet Edward Thomas who, sometime before the Great War, referred to an aeroplane overhead – probably the first poetic mentions of one of the wretched things. Just reading his poem gives a real feeling of intrusion, a sense that the countryside may never be truly secret ever again.

The babble of ramblers can be annoying, and explains why I can never really be a group walker – though I enjoy the company of some walkers in groups I have walked with.

But I do think they talk too much. Some years ago, I led a trappist walk for my rambling group – a ramble across northern Dartmoor where talking was forbidden, except for a couple of talking breaks. It was an odd experience, particularly when we couldn’t say hello to passers-by. But I commend the experiment to you. Best done on open ground where you don’t have to see people over lots of stiles or through chatty villages.

And wouldn’t it be lovely, never to hear a car engine again?

Walking right out near Cranmere Pool on northern Dartmoor a while ago, I could clearly hear the traffic on the awful Okehampton bypass.

A place of solitude defiled.

Okay, I’m a motorist too, but it seems to me we have become obsessed with getting to places far too quickly. Cars shouldn’t have priority over the peaceful existence of country walkers. They should have to cope with existing roads, with no more dual-carriageways invading our green fields – like that dreadful monstrosity completed into Weymouth for the benefit of Olympic Games gawpers.

And I wish nothing but hell and perdition on the proposed high speed rail link through the lovely Chilterns. Do we really need a rail line that gets people – almost certainly rich businessmen will be the only people who can afford a ticket – just a bit faster to the north? Wouldn’t it be better to invest all that cash on our branch lines, so that the multitude can leave their cars at home and access our beautiful countryside as our forebears did? I don’t mind the distant and occasional rumble of a train, particularly if its carriages are carrying real people, not suited idiots who can’t see further than their calculators.

Nowadays, you have to go further out to avoid the sounds of machinery; far into the Pennines perhaps, or the loneliest glens of Scotland. There you may find just the sounds of nature.

Just occasionally it is possible to hear the quieter sounds of nature without the turgid blare of human interference. But the experience becomes rarer as we progress through this new century.

Let us all fight a battle to keep noise and visual intrusion out of our countryside.

A Walk from Crosby Garrett

The rain of the night had passed over to leave a rather beautiful day, dramatic grey clouds at first and then bright sunshine.

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The Potts Beck (c) John Bainbridge 2017

We walked out from Crosby Garrett, a pleasant and unspoiled village dominated by the great viaduct of the Settle to Carlisle railway line. Up past the railway cottages is the old village station, disused since 1952.

Then along a rather lovely green lane called Ladle Lane – lots of cowslips and orchids – to Wander Bank.

We were out now in wilder country as we descended to the ruins of Potts Farm and the lonely Potts Valley. Rather sad, looking at the farm. What quiet lives must have been led by the people who lived there…

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The Potts Valley (c) John Bainbridge 2017

We followed the Potts Beck upstream – a wild and lonely valley dominated by limestone scars on the hillside and huge boulders below. And a longer stretch of rocks called Hazzler Brow Scar.

We hit the road south of Fell Farm – the occasional sad of cry of a curlew and lots of skylarks.

Then south down the lane to a cattle grid, where we picked up the route of the Coast to Coast Path. The path winds round the south of Ewefell Mire – modest by Dartmoor standards – then on to bridleways from Bents Hill.

You do wonder who created these great broad tracks?

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Crosby Garrett from the Fell (c) John Bainbridge 2017

Our path went over Weather Hill and over Crosby Garrett Fell – long views now over the Pennines, the Howgill Fells and the mountains of the Lake District.

Northwards now by the Willycock Stones before reaching the edge of the fell.

We followed the stone wall back to Crosby Garrett and the end of the walk.

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Pillar Carving (c) John Bainbridge 2017

Afterwards, we visited the village church. It stands away from the houses on a hilltop mound. No doubt there were periods of its history when it was a defensive position, given visiting Vikings and Scots raiders!

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Crosby Garrett Church (c) John Bainbridge 2017

There is a niche in the porch where the parson apparently his his flintlock pistol before entering the church. I put my hand in but only extracted a box of drawing pins.

The church is very simple inside, though with some fine pillar carvings and a probable Saxon arch.

A lovely walk in an historical setting.

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Saxon Arch (c) John Bainbridge 2017

My Trespassing Book for just 99 pence/cents.

For just one week from tonight, my book The Compleat Trespasser – Journeys Into Forbidden Britain is available for just 99 pence/cents as a Kindle read for your smartphone (with a free Kindle App) or to read on a Kindle device or laptop.

It’s also out in paperback.dscf8425

Walk Magazine in its review said:

“On a vagabonding tour through Britain’s most delightful countryside and forbidden tracts, Bainbridge charts the history of access and assesses the present state of the law.

Villainous landowners feature; so do the likes of GHB Ward and CEM Joad, calling at rallies for access to mountain and moor. Gamekeepers, spring-guns and mass trespasses also get a look-in.

Redolent of country air, with nature and archaeology dealt with in graphic style, the book evokes the age of campaigns before words like ‘stakeholder’ and ‘partnership’ were hatched out.

The author lends his support to the England Coast Path campaign and calls for the Scottish access model to be extended throughout Britain. It’s thought-provoking stuff and well worth a read.”

Here’s the publisher’s blurb:

ABOUT THE COMPLEAT TRESPASSER: In 1932, five ramblers in England were imprisoned for daring to walk in their own countryside. The Mass Trespass on to Kinder Scout, which led to their arrests, has since becoming an iconic symbol of the campaign for the freedom to roam in the British countryside.

The Compleat Trespasser – Journeys Into The Heart Of Forbidden Britain, written by outdoors journalist and novelist John Bainbridge, looks at just why the British were – and still are – denied responsible access to much of their own land.

This ground-breaking book examines how events through history led to the countryside being the preserve of the few rather than the many.

It examines the landscapes to which access is still denied, from stretches of moorland and downland to many of our beautiful forests and woodlands.

An inveterate trespasser, John Bainbridge gives an account of some of his own journeys into Britain’s forbidden lands, as he walks in the steps of poachers, literary figures and pioneer ramblers.

The book concludes with a helpful chapter of “Notes for Prospective Trespassers”, giving a practical feel to this handbook on the art of trespass. At a time when government is putting our civil liberties at threat, destroying the beauties of our countryside, and your right to access it, this book is a most useful read.

John Bainbridge has been a country walker for over fifty years. He was recently commended by the Ramblers Association for his many years of campaigning service to the rambling movement. He is the author of some thirty books and hundreds of magazine and newspaper articles, mostly about the countryside and outdoor life.

John is also the author of the historical novels Loxley and Wolfshead chronicling the adventures of Robin Hood – one of Britain’s most notorious trespassers!

Have a subversive rambling week  with The Compleat Trespasser…

Just click on the link below to order or start reading…